Mayor Pankow and Smiths Falls Town Councilors,
I am writing this evening to express my concerns regarding the recent behavior and actions of members of Town Council. I have lived in this town for 35 years and I have never once felt compelled to write to Council on any issue until now.
In Fall 2018, members of the Smiths Falls community engaged in the democratic process of voting for mayor and council. Some of us felt so strongly about the leadership skills and attributes of some candidates that we even put your names on our front lawns—professing for all to see that we believed in you and were voting for you.
Come January, I was shocked that the Beckwith Street re-development project was brought up again by the new council. Like many others in town, I hadn’t even considered it as a possible topic of consideration when I cast my ballot back in October. If I’d known, I definitely would have voted with this in mind. Beyond the issue of parking, though, is the issue of doing the right thing; of maintaining integrity and transparency in the role of mayor and councilor. Yes, we voted you in, but we did so under the assumption that you would represent the voices of all Smiths Falls residents over the course of your four-year term.
After watching last night’s Committee of the Whole meeting, I was disheartened by the behavior of elected officials. There were insults, veiled threats and blatant lies being told, some even directed at our former mayor and a former councilwoman. Where is the respect for those who have served before you? Where is the notion that you are, in fact, supposed to be working in service to the people of Smiths Falls?
Your By-Laws clearly state “A Code of Conduct aims to ensure public trust and confidence in the Municipality’s decision making and operations. The public should expect the highest standards of conduct from the members they elect to local government…In turn, adherence to these standards will protect and maintain the Municipality’s reputation and the integrity of its decision-making process”. I haven’t seen much in the way of adhering to this code in recent weeks.
In the end, the question I must ask is: “why does the Smiths Falls Town Council continue to ignore and refute the desires of its residents to maintain the historical angled parking?” As elected officials, how can you sit there week after week, insisting that you are right in this? The very people who put you in those chairs are insisting that this is wrong and yet you continue to push forward with the plan that you deem best. As a leader myself, I aspire to the Servant Leadership philosophy that leadership is about service to people—it is not self-serving and reliant on one’s ego and desire to be right.
I ask that you please take some time to reflect on the intended spirit of your role and to review this decision and recent behaviours in an effort to reconcile with the town’s constituents and work to mend some fences. Right now there is distrust, disrespect and sincere disappointment with how Council has conducted itself. As former mayor Dennis Staples said: “it’s never too late to do the right thing.”